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On the Other Side of the Looking Glass

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Later, after they got him out of the desert, after his injuries have mostly healed, after McKay has given him a speech of how criminally stupid he was and that he'd be even more stupid if he didn't take their job offer... much later, he finds himself facing the caged creature again.

It looks haggard and weak in the pale blue light, but when John steps towards the cell, it raises its head and smiles a wolfish smile that makes the hair at the back of John's neck stand up.

Almost despite himself, he moves closer. So does the creature, getting up from where it's crouching on the floor and standing, with some difficulty. Somewhere low in John's stomach, fear spikes like a thousand needles. He tells himself it's unreasonable: there's a solid glass wall between them, and even if there wasn't, the creature is barely strong enough to keep on its feet; John could easily take it.

"Still alive, I see," he taunts, forcing himself to smirk.

The creature cocks its head, as if in amusement. "So are you, John Sheppard. So are you."

John swallows at the implication of the words, remembering what McKay said. They can get in your head. Before he has a chance to digest the absolute creepiness of this, the creature continues speaking.

"Destiny beckoned, and here you are, right where you should be. Walking in the shoes of the other you."

And John knows that it got that right from his head, or maybe from McKay's head, but it still doesn't make it any less spooky to hear those words out of the creature's mouth, like some weird prophecy.

"You don't know anything," John says, but his voice is shaky and lacking the conviction he would like it to have. He takes another step forward, until he's just inches from yellow reptile eyes and the glass that separates him from them.

The creature laughs softly. "I know that we shall be brothers."

It presses its hand flat against the glass, and even though he has no intention of doing so, John finds himself compelled to raise his own hand, tentatively mirroring the position of the creature's, aligning their palms.

"Mirror, mirror..." The sandpaper voice is almost dreamy, and memories flash through John's mind like faded polaroids: a rusty prison cell, foreign landscapes, the elegant, flawless architecture of a city that calls out home to him. Except they are not memories; he knows they are not memories because he has never seen those places in his life. But the creature's gaze burns into his, and he couldn't take his hand away if he tried. There's pain and fear and suspicion and gratefulness and hope and loyalty and trust and hunger, so much hunger.

And then it's over, as sudden as it began, and the creature has stepped back and turned away. The onslaught of images and emotions stops and just the hunger remains, setting off a low growl in John's stomach.

"What the hell was that?" John asks, hating how freaked out he sounds.

The creature doesn't answer. It looks even more tired than it did when John came in. He waits for a long moment, before he resigns himself that he won't get any more answers today, and the sudden craving for food drives him to the cafeteria.

McKay looks up from his table when John approaches with a full tray and frowns. "Hey, didn't you just have lunch, like, fifteen minutes ago?"

John shrugs. "Feeling hungry again, I guess."